November 5 – The Poor Millionaire – Rich Toward Others

Read Luke 16:19-31

Eternity is a difficult concept. We tend to live our lives hour to hour, day to day, week to week.  Our fragile emotions and sense of belonging all seem to ebb and flow with our present circumstances.  Perhaps there is some wisdom in this… “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day”!  On the other hand, Jesus rarely looks at things this way. He always seems to take an eternal perspective. 

Perhaps we should take something from that!

In today’s passage, we see Jesus teaching the disciples, using a parable about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus.  We only know a few things about Lazarus: he was “covered with sores”, and had received in his lifetime “bad things”.  The rich man was “clothed in, “fine linen” and “feasted sumptuously every day.” Upon their mutual death, the rich man ended up in Hell, and Lazarus was comforted in Heaven, next to Abraham. We aren’t told why they ended up this way; we just know there is a chasm that prevents them from crossing . We know the rich man was in anguish and longs to warn his five brothers about his fate. 

Sadly, he is unable to do so. 

This is Jesus’ eternal perspective. One verse stands out above all the rest. When the rich man begs for mercy, he is told by Abraham:

“Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.”

Let’s personalize that!

Imagine if your loved family member or friend is the rich man! Brothers and sisters, let that move us to action! If we are rich toward others, we will not be obsessed with silently building up our own fiefdoms!  People that live to serve others don’t have time for empire-building; they are far too busy meeting the needs of the “least of these”.  (Matthew 25:31-46).  It is an uncomfortable reality that Jesus repeatedly warns against excessive material wealth (Matthew 19:24).  To put our material wealth in perspective…the global median income is around $2100 per year.  The vast majority of Americans rest comfortably in the world’s wealthiest 10%.  That should make us praise God and should also come with a hearty swallow, once we understand the responsibility we bear as Christ-bearers to a lost and needy world.  

Let’s change the narrative; let’s be RICH TOWARD OTHERS!  Our material wealth can be an attribute when it is leveraged for the Gospel. How can you use your blessings to invest in God’s Kingdom? Time, treasure, talent… all belong to HIM who saved us from our sin, and all need to be prayerfully and intentionally devoted to godly purposes.  If you are not sure where to start, look no further than the many ministries and missions undertaken by Grace Church.  Pick one, and let’s go! Let’s live our lives as if we will be judged tomorrow, for all of eternity, based on who we serve today!

Craig French

November 3 – The Poor Millionaire – Rich & Poor

Read Luke 4:14-19

How do you convince people who have comfortable lives that they need to rely on God for daily living? 

It’s a tough question for me as an American.  You see, I have a pretty physically comfortable life.  By earthly standards, my wife and I are rich people. We make more money, eat more food, have a bigger home, and have more clothes than most other people in the world. By American standards, my wife and I are middle class. We make “middle class” money that allows us to have access to food, clothing and shelter beyond what we just need.

By Jesus’ standards, the only ones that matter, what is my true financial status?

Luke chapter 4 puts everything in perspective.  Jesus has yet to have one disciple who followed and was definitively driven by 40 days in the desert where Satan provided plenty of temptation, all revolving around earthly and national comforts and even basic human physical need.

The funny thing about Luke 4, is that it is a direct contradiction of my American “wealth” because of Jesus’ words when returning to His hometown, fresh from the desert. Jesus makes it clear in 14-19 that He has come for the poor, the oppressed and the broken. I often wonder: if Jesus has proclaimed that He has come for the poor, then why do we try so hard to be rich?

What if we could flip the script?

Jesus came for the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned and the broken. We should too.  There is nothing about His affect, words, or being that sends a message of promised prosperity for following Him.  For those of us who are prosperous, our challenge is clear:

What are we doing with our wealth and who benefits from it?

What is the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and what is the purpose therefore of ours? How do we engage the community, region and world around us in light of His words and what satisfaction do we really seek with our prosperity?


Joe Rubino

November 1 – The Poor Millionaire – Rich Toward God

Read Luke 12:15 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10

In surveying high school students about their future and dreams, it is interesting to note that many of them said they want to be rich and that it would make them happy and successful. However, not all sophomores in high school said that. Some of them said they want to do something excellent and try to improve the lives of others while others said they want to make a difference in this world for good. Some even said publicly that they want to honor God in whatever they do. But over half of the surveyed students said the number one goal was to get rich.

I wondered how they developed these goals? Was it the media? Or friends or maybe their parents?

1 Timothy 6:9-10 discusses the lust for money. Putting money as the number 1 priority in life above God, family, and friends can have negative consequences.

Have you considered that?

Making money is necessary and important in the world we live in. Earning money and managing money are subjects that we all need to know more about. Many churches, ours included, offer classes on money management for this very reason. The Bible refers to money, integrity and thrift often, but the “love of money” appears to be a big problem.

Contentment is the goal.

By asking God for contentment, perhaps that can replace a love of money. The secret to contentment is summed up in this phrase:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart”Proverbs 3:5

In 1 Timothy 6:10, there is a statement that reads:

“…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

Not money, but the love of money. Have you considered if you worship money more than God? Do you maybe have a lust for money?

Worship and love God, our creator. Avoid being a person who lusts after money (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Treasure God above all that money can buy. If a restaurant overcharges your bill, are you going to point that out to the waitress that you are paying too much? Of course, you are.

What about if you are undercharged?

“What you do with your money shows what you value with your heart.”

John Piper

You will encounter many people in your life who have the love of money above their love of God (Matthew 7:13-14). Look for God’s guidance to find and stay on the narrow road that leads to life.

The love of God includes the fact that the local church is crucial for God’s work in the world and that people – the church – will support God’s church. We can honor Jesus with how we handle money. This way, we can experience the blessing and joy of being generous toward God.

How do you balance the challenge of making money with the importance of being rich toward God?

Tom Weckesser

October 31 – The Poor Millionaire – God or Money?

Read Luke 16:1-31

While attention will be given to vs1-9; the completion of the entire chapter is needed to understand context.

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Mark Twain

The words quoted from Mark Twain are some of the first ones that I think of when reading vs 1-9.  What in the world was Jesus saying? He just finished the parable in chapter 15 of the Prodigal Son (a story that we all love to reflect on when considering the need for forgiveness), and He immediately tells this crazy parable about two money guys, both as dishonest as the other.  Is He saying that this is how we should live too?

Is this what it takes to get into the Kingdom of Heaven?

The ironic thing about Jesus’ parables is that those in His audience were a mixed group of society’s social classes. Among them, a class of people were called the Pharisees. These people can be better understood to be the religious leaders of the day; wealthy, authorities and keepers of the law.  When I think about the impact of Jesus’ words in a story about dishonest people, the Bible highlights their response:

“The Pharisees who loved money, heard all of this and were sneering at Jesus.”

Why would they sneer? Perhaps, their own hard hearts were exposed through the story and the subsequent follow through that drove home what it takes to really thrive in God’s Kingdom:

  1. Jesus convicts us (yes, each of us can be Pharisees too) as He uses the story to make the point that, if you can figure out how to be trusted to handle a little bit for the Master, then you can be trusted to handle much more.  We can thrive in God’s Kingdom, but only after being trusted with a little!
  1. Jesus immediately connects the imaginary story to the reality of those who love money.  Keep pursuing what matters to people to find value and you will always come up short!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”v. 13

The parable of the shrewd manager is not an example for how we should emulate greed.  It is a reality that reveals the condition of the human heart.

Joe Rubino

August 25 – Heaven FAQ’s – Will we know and interact with others in Heaven?

Read Luke 9:29-33

This pandemic really threw a wrench into facial recognition. My phone wouldn’t open when I wore a mask. How annoying.

But failure to not recognize a face isn’t just annoying; facial recognition is something God designed as part of being human. Recognizing a face is one of those things we take for granted. It really is a wonderful thing. When a friend passes you driving and you wave – friendship. When your spouse is arriving home at the airport – at last, there they are! When you lay eyes on your newborn – love.

So will we recognize each other when we get to Heaven? Will we spot the ones we love who have trusted in Jesus and found a home in Heaven? Or will facial recognition fail us? Will Heaven be a relational reset?

When we picture Heaven, we easily imagine a celestial city. But scripture says that Heaven is rather a new earth (Revelation 21:1, 4). If that’s the case, then I imagine Eden, but with humans on the other side of their mistakes, forgiven and redeemed. They’re still imbued with that signature touch of God and made in His image.

But enough philosophizing. What clues does scripture give us? Well, there’s Luke 9:29-33:

“As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)”

First of all, Moses and Elijah seem to recognize 1. Each other; and 2. Jesus. It doesn’t appear like they took times for introductions before chatting. And second, Peter, James and John, who like all good Jewish men revered Moses and Elijah, knew who they were seeing hang out with their master.

That’s a great clue. But I guess what convinces me most is who I know Jesus to be. Have you ever known God to disguise or hide good things from people He loves? Isn’t He in the business of opening our eyes so we may see? (2 Kings 6:17) Wasn’t Jesus awakening people’s awareness to Him and helping them recognize His goodness?

August 24 – Heaven FAQ’s – Will I eat and drink in Heaven?

Read Revelation 19:1-10 & Luke 22:14-23

I’ve been called many things in my life. Some of them, I’m not too proud of. However, when I was little, people called me the human garbage disposal. As is the case with many younger boys, I had quite the appetite. Legitimately, people would invite me over to their house to clean out their fridge. My metabolism was insane as I never went over 200 pounds until after I graduated high school. I was always the tall and skinny guy…not so much anymore.

I have always had a loving relationship with food for as long as I can remember. To this day even, my brother and I, if we know we are going to be eating at mom and dad’s that night, will text mom asking what’s on the menu so we can be excited for it…sometimes the day before. This is also exemplified by the Lawson family’s love for popcorn. We’ve toned down a little bit but there was a time where we would fill a mixing bowl with popcorn, which would be for one person, which would be consumed with minimal effort.

A question that many people have is if there is going to be eating in Heaven. As a “foodie” I can agree that that is a good question! To answer it, I want to draw you to the 19th chapter of Revelation. In the first 8 verses of our reading, you are given the context of what is called the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. This is a meal that will take place in Heaven including all believers in Christ for all of time. I’m not going to do it justice so I would encourage you all to read the first 8 verses and try to visualize just how incredible a scene that will be!

What I want to draw your attention to are 4 words in verse 9:

“…those who are invited…”

As mentioned previously, this is a celebration for those who have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Those who die apart from Christ will not be at the table, instead they will be experiencing eternal torment in Hell.

Those 4 words should shake us to our core. Who do you know that, if they were to die today, wouldn’t be invited to this meal? Who do you know that believes in God but doesn’t yet have a personal relationship with Him? Who do you know who is still living in their sin?

This is a meal they can’t afford to not be at.

Imagine what it would be like getting to Heaven and seeing a familiar face in line. It’s with tears in their eyes that they say, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.” You could be the last time they hear the gospel in their lifetime.

Who do you know that needs to secure an invitation to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb?

Jake Lawson

August 22 – Heaven FAQ’s – What will life be like for those who don’t go to Heaven?

Read Luke 16:19-31 and Mark 9:42-49

I don’t remember a lot of firsts in my life like learning to read, walk, sing, ride a bike or swim.  To me, I have always been able to do those things. Likewise, I don’t remember not being able to talk to God. I’ve prayed for friends who were hurting or for God to give me strength to get through tough times since I was little. As a young child, I remember talking to God many times while riding my bike up and down a side street in our neighborhood.

Through the years, our conversations have gotten more complex, along with my professional, financial and parental worries.

Talking to Him and feeling His presence with me has always brought me comfort and assurance that, no matter what, He would be right beside me.

Sometimes He would ask me to do things. Sometimes I would question the reason or my abilities, but He always came through and equipped me for whatever I needed to complete the task.

One time, however, was different.  I can’t remember what it was that God was urging me to do, but I do remember I was not eager to do it.  Everywhere I turned, He was reminding me of the task I did not want to do.  If I turned on the TV, there it was.  If I read a book, it would appear in the text.  If I was talking to a friend, there it was again. I felt like I was in a bad Jim Carrey movie!

As I was driving to work one day, I turned on the radio and there it was again!  I had had it! And without thinking I shouted, “God, just leave me alone!” Just that fast I shouted, ” NO!”  Because right there on Oak Hill Road in Wooster, Ohio all alone in my car, I truly believe that God gave me a glimpse of what it would be like totally without God!

Oh, there weren’t any little men running around with pitch forks and with horns on their heads.  I didn’t stick around long enough to feel the fire, but it was real!

It was just a total absence of God, and I couldn’t stand it for even a millisecond!   There was total emptiness, total despair, total isolation rolled all into one.

How sad it is for people around us who don’t know God, who feel that emptiness, despair, and isolation every day here on Earth.  Their financial condition has nothing to do with their “Heart for God” condition. I know some very financially poor people who are millionaires spiritually!

All the money in the world can’t buy you a ticket into heaven and spare you from hell’s fire.  Like with the rich man in the passage, once you die, it is too late to change courses.

It is up to us to introduce people we meet to our God and His Son Jesus before it is too late!

Hell is more than a cuss word.  It is a real place and you definitely don’t want to live there eternally!

Pat Arnold

May 23 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ resurrection

Read Luke 24:1-49

My husband, Keith, grew up on a farm on a dead-end road. There’s a sign by the end of the driveway warning ‘no outlet,’ and yet, car after car proceeds past it only to turn around when they realize the warning was, indeed, true.

Why do we insist on checking out all the possibilities only to find them dead ends?

Here’s a deeper question. Why are we prone to look for the living among the dead?

We knock on wood.

We hope for the best.

We dig deep within ourselves.

We consult all of the voices of wisdom at our fingertips.

And we find ourselves back at square one. Out of luck. Living far from the ‘best.’ Exhausted. Misguided, or worse yet, deceived.

Since the moment I first read it, the imagery of Psalm 115 has captured my mind and heart. We read:

“idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”

Dead.

All that we erect in our hearts and all that we bow down to rooted in ourselves and the world is dead.

There’s no help there.

No salvation.

No rest.

No hope.

But…

the resurrected Jesus showed himself to a couple of dead souls walking down a road. They were sad. Disappointed. Jesus had been their hope of a better present and future and they believed He was dead.

And Jesus did what he always does. He revealed himself as they could take Him in. He gave them some history. Some reasons why they might want to look His way. And then, when they got to their destination, He kept walking.

“Wait, please come in and stay with us!”

And He did.

Jesus, our living Savior, wants to be invited in to stay.

“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”

Revelation 3:20

Our God is alive, relational, present, listening, speaking, tasting, seeing, and more! Oh, how I want to be like Him.

Do you?

Shelly Eberly

May 22 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ crucifixion

Read Luke 23:1-56

Raising of the Cross”

Rembrandt

The painting “Raising of the Cross” depicts the crucifixion of Christ. Notice the man at the foot of the cross wearing a blue painter’s beret.  Obviously, this man is not from the 1st century – this man looks out of place.  And yet, there he stands, lifting the cross with the others. Who is this man? 

It is Rembrandt himself, who has pictured himself at the foot of the cross.

Why did Rembrandt place himself at the foot of the cross as Jesus is lifted up, and crucified?   For no other reason than to tell the world, that he, Rembrandt, was a sinner.  His sins, like the rest of mankind’s, sent Christ to the cross. Rembrandt recognized himself as a man of rebellion, who chose repentance, and received redemption.

At the crucifixion of Jesus there were 3 crosses:

A cross of rebellion (Luke 23:39)

The cross of rebellion held the thief that remained bitter in his heart.  We see the rebellion in the Roman Government who was indifferent; in the crowd who was hard-hearted; in the Jewish leaders who were hostile; and in the thief who completely rejected Christ.  This thief saw and heard the same things that the other thief saw and heard, but chose to remain in a state of rebellion to Christ.

A cross of repentance (Luke 23:40-43)

At the cross of repentance, we have the other thief.  This thief acknowledged the justice of God in the punishment of his sin. He acknowledged Jesus as Lord.  His salvation was personal, secure, and guaranteed by the words of Jesus.  The cross of repentance teaches us that the way of salvation is simple.  The thief was saved simply by asking the Lord to save him.  Because this thief asked Jesus to be forgiven and to enter into paradise, he received redemption.

The cross of redemption (Luke 23:47)

The cross of redemption, on which Jesus was crucified and died, provided redemption for those who chose to believe.  Christ’s voluntary sacrifice at the crucifixion was a defining moment of Christianity. Christ’s last statement on the cross was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

In this statement He:

Completed all Old Testament prophecy.

Completed the ceremonial law.

Completed the work of man’s redemption and salvation.

Man now has the ability to appear before a holy God,

man is reconciled to a holy God,

and man is considered righteous before a holy God.

Jesus’ crucifixion and subsequent resurrection was the biggest defining moment of all! Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have eternal life!

This is your defining moment!

You have a choice:

Remain at the cross of rebellion or move to the cross of repentance.

Jesus was in the middle of the 2 thieves.  Both thieves were guilty of sin and both had a choice to make with eternal results: life with Christ or a life without Him. 

Rembrandt chose the cross of repentance.  He knew that his sin put Christ on the cross.  Do you realize that your sins also, put Christ on the cross? 

What will you choose today?  Look at the picture again, but this time, picture yourself in the place of Rembrandt at the foot of the cross. 

I call Heaven and earth to witness against you today,

that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. 

So choose life in order that you may live….

Deuteronomy 30:19

Your choice, will be your defining moment!

Janene Nagel

May 21 – Defining Moments – Jesus’ temptation

Read Luke 4:1-13 and 22:39-46

“Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”Luke 22:46

Recently, my wife, Birdie and I had pretty good seats for a Petra concert at the Akron Civic Theater.

One of their songs is titled, “Who’s on the Lord’s side?”

Wow! What lyrics!

“You’ve been running

…for a long time…

You better get right while

He may be found.”

“You better choose this day – tomorrow’s not promised to you.”

In Luke 22, Jesus said, “Get up.”

Are you actively working at and dealing with temptation? If not, this can lead to a falling of your faith.

Jesus is talking to His disciples, who were sleeping. They were exhausted, a time that a person is vulnerable to fall into temptation. Jesus was fasting and had not eaten in 40 days (See Luke 4). So, His hunger was great and His resistance was low.

At times like this, the devil seems to make temptations seem attractive.

We all have our weaknesses and temptations. It could be drugs, adultery, stealing, corruption, homosexuality, drunkenness, lying and more.

Be alert. Stand firm. Temptation is not a sin. But how we deal with it might be. You may have to turn around and run the other way. Ask God for direction.

Stay alert!

In Luke 4, Jesus was alert and He stood firm. He refused to give in to the temptation of Satan.

What a defining moment.

Then, having been repulsed twice by Scripture, the devil quotes scripture to try to tempt Jesus in 4:10-11. Jesus responded with complete trust in God (v 12).

“He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, full of grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”Luke 22:45-46

Get up. Hit the devil with a scripture verse such as this one: “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Luke 4:8.

Memorize it.

Run from temptation. Run. Turn around and go the other way.

Pray for strength!

Tom Weckesser